The fifth anniversary of first standing on the little terrace and having that “this is the one” moment passed just before we set off for our recent holiday at the end of August. The anniversary of the day we signed the compromis de vente passed while we were there and the anniversary of finally getting the keys will be coming up in November.
As soon as we announced to my father in 2007 that we were going to buy a holiday home in France, he immediately got himself a passport. But no matter how much we tried, we could not persuade him to come with us. He was full of enthusiasm at first but as the years went by he became less and less inclined to make the trip. His main worry was being taken ill on the journey, or while we were in France, and ending up in a French hospital.
A few weeks ago, at the age of 83, he changed his mind and, at last, decided to come !!
The ferry port at Dover at 9pm.We rearranged the travelling to include an overnight stay in Calais, breaking the journey and making it easier for Dad. Then when we thought about it properly, the prospect of getting three adults, a large poodle and all our luggage in one smallish car looked like a problem. So we bought a top box.
Then when I contacted Eurotunnel to tell them our car would no longer be less than 1.85 metres in height, which meant we wouldn’t fit in the double-decker carriages and would need to be in with the coaches and caravans, they informed us they had no spaces left.
It was lucky I thought to make that phone call, or we would have turned up at the tunnel only to find we were unable to travel !! So I booked us onto the ferry instead.
Nick settling Lulu down for the ferry crossing.This is the first time we have taken Lulu on the ferry. I was very nervous about it and didn’t like the idea of leaving her in the car, by herself, on the car deck for more than 1½ hours. The beauty of travelling through the tunnel is that you stay with the car, so you don’t leave the dog alone, and it only takes 35 minutes.
Being the first on means you are also the first off the boat.
I know that other people take their dogs on the ferry regularly with no problem at all, as do our friends Chris and Gail with their English setter, Skye. But this was the first time for Lulu and I was fearing the worst. What if she became anxious and needed to go to the loo? What if she started barking and caused a fuss, even setting off other car alarms? My imagination was running riot but while I got my dad to the upper decks, Nick settled her down and she was, of course, absolutely fine.
A friend of mine once said that the only time something is difficult to do, is the first time. It’s very true.
It was worth ticking the “needing assistance” box on the booking form, and paying £10 extra for priority boarding. This meant we were at the front of the line of cars to disembark and only a few steps away from the passenger lift – so we could get my dad up to the passenger decks without having to use the stairs.
The very comfortable lounge on the beautifully appointed ferry.The ferry seemed to be brand new. Much better than the last P&O ferry we travelled on, which was probably more than five years ago. On that occasion the boat was crowded and scruffy – I vowed I would never travel with P&O again. This time I was very impressed – everywhere was clean, sparkling and very comfortable. We left the dock on time and arrived at the hotel at a sensible time to get a good night’s sleep.
Setting off on the second leg of the journey.
We were up bright and early the following morning. My dad wanted to make a detour on the way to the Loire, in order to visit the cemetery at La Neuville, near the town of Albert.
His uncle Sam, who he never knew, died in the battle for Albert in the Great War in 1916, as did his mother’s first husband. She was only 24 and had three young children, my father’s step brother and sisters, when her husband died. The two men were both buried at La Neuville.
Nick and I made the trip to the cemetery in 2006 and I wrote about it here. It was a moving experience for us at the time and today was going to be a big day for my dad.
The entrance to the little cemetery at La Neuville.The cemetery was beautifully kept, just as the last time, and there had been a recent shower so the grass was fresh and green.
The raindrops on the roses on the soldiers’ graves could have been teardrops.
My dad pays his respect to his uncle, who he never knew, but has never forgotten. He lost two uncles in the Great War. The youngest was seventeen and he died just two weeks after leaving home to fight in France.
My dad signed the visitors book and left a message, just as we had done six years before.
It was an emotional time for all of us and my dad was glad he went. It was a big moment for him as none of his brothers and sisters have managed to make the trip.
After a solemn start to the day, we headed south towards Le Grand-Pressigny and we all cheered up as the clouds disappeared and the temperature began to climb. A great holiday was in front of us !!